Tama Tonga on why this year’s World Tag League will see G.o.D on top
The Guerrillas of Destiny are six time IWGP Tag Team Champions, matching the record set by TenCozy, and still with much more to come in their tag team careers. Yet in nearly five years of teaming, G.o.D have yet to achieve two goals: a win in World Tag League, and a win in the Tokyo Dome. Here, the freshly returned to Japan Tama Tonga discusses why the next two months will see all that change.
It’s not just a competition between teams, it’s a competition to see which series is best
–So Tama, we saw you back in action Sunday in Aichi.
Tama: First time in Japan since we lost the tag titles. Appropriate.
–How do you feel about being back in Japan?
Tama: F**k, so good. It was great to heal and be at home, but we’re itching to get back to work. I’m full of energy. I’m happy to be back.
–So let’s talk about World Tag League. A more condensed lineup than we have had in recent years with ten teams in one league.
Tama: I like it like that. On paper it looks great. I like we’re running with Best of the Super Jr. as well. It adds to the competition.
–You want to compete with BoSJ?
Tama: Yeah. It’s not just a competition with the other teams, but a competition to decide which is the better series. So I like the way it worked out. And I like that there’s days in between the matches. We have the chance to prepare for each opponent now, and it’s less about just having match after match. It’s quality over quantity.
–You’ve spent nine months away watching the tag team scene from the US. Has that been frustrating?
Tama: I’m actually pretty grateful for it.
Tama: Let’s say we were in Japan. We would constantly be in that situation, us an established team, FinJuice an established team and two newer teams, Golden Ace and Taichi and ZSJ. The pandemic put us on the back burner and let the other teams really work out how to wrestle as tag teams, and it let Dangerous Tekkers become a really good team together. So now, there’s no excuse when we come back and face them. They’ll be at their best and that’s what I want.
BULLET CLUB aren’t brothers anymore. That’s done.
–There’ll be three BULLET CLUB teams in World Tag League, including EVIL with Yujiro Takahashi.
–EVIL’s presence in BULLET CLUB was one of the themes through the tournament, and his connection to Jay White in particular. EVIL wanted to face Jay White in the Tokyo Dome, and Jay tried to help EVIL to victory over Tetsuya Naito at Power Struggle, but it didn’t work out.
Tama: Yeah, and?
–Well, you’ve said before that we’ll have to ‘wait and see’ what the situation with EVIL and BULLET CLUB was like until you were all together. Now that you are together…
Tama: Y’know, I think EVIL was used to how they do things in LIJ. And maybe when EVIL came in Jay was threatened by his position. I understand that. But there’s no worry. I know we can handle the situation.
–There have been a lot of rumours.
Tama: That’s fine with me. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s all making BULLET CLUB bigger. We’re always in your eyes, your mouth, your mind, then it’s all good for us. You watch baseball?
Tama: (Ignoring)Well we’re like the 1972 New York Yankees. A dream team. All the best players in one place. Yeah there are egos. Egos all over the place, but we’ll pull it together and we’ll be the best there is.
–You’ve talked before about having one definite vision for BULLET CLUB…
Tama: That era is gone. We aren’t brothers anymore. None of this “Good Brother” stuff. That’s done. We’re not trying to be friends, we’re trying to be a team. The best team.
–You have two all BULLET CLUB matches all at the start of the campaign. Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens on November 16 and then Yujiro and EVIL right after that. Are those matches challenging?
Tama: Before, yeah, because we were always looking after one another like brothers. But now, that’s done. We have to prove that we are the best tag team in the world, and we have to do that whether it’s against our own teammates or any other pair that’s out there.
SANADA and Shingo? I like them together. They’ll be fun to wrestle
–Yujiro and EVIL is one new team in this tour and so is SANADA and Shingo Takagi. SANADA and EVIL took the WTL twice together; how do you think SANADA and Shingo will fare? They both have very different styles.
Tama: I like them together. SANADA is really athletic, and Shingo is quick, and very hard hitting. Those two styles together will be a difficult pace for us to keep up with. Before, EVIL was the slower muscle type, but this higher speed will be interesting for us to wrestle.
–You and your brother can wrestle at a high pace as well.
Tama: Yeah. T (Tanga Loa) is a former Division One football player, so he can bring that speed as well as strength, and I’m all speed too, so that should be a fun match for us.
The key for the Empire? Teamwork
–Then there’s the Kiwis in the tournament. Henare with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Bad Luck Fale with Chase Owens. This will be the first time we’ve seen them in a long time.
Tama: You know they’re both hungry. You can tell. Fale has lost a ton of weight and that takes a lot of work. Henare, he’s always hungry. I remember me and Fale were tagging in the tag league back in, when was that?
–2014. This was before Tanga Loa came in in 2016.
Tama: Yeah. (Fale) was super hungry then, we both were. I think now, I see that same hunger in Henare, too. If he gets the right guidance, the sky’s the limit.
–The other X factor is The Empire.
Tama: Ah yeah, the new guys.
–We haven’t had a new faction since 2015 in NJPW, when LIJ was formed. At this point in time, what’s important to The Empire? What’s the key to them surviving as a force?
Tama: Team work. Definitely teamwork.
–Can you be more specific?
Tama: Well, there has to be a different role for everyone in that group, and everyone has to know that role. If they don’t there’ll be clashes. Empires fall from the inside out, that’s what they have to be careful about.
This is our time. We have to make sure we take what’s ours
–When we get to December 11 in the Budokan, there’s a lot of talk about who will main event. Is that spot important to you, or are you more focused on making sure you win the tag league?
Tama: Well, I don’t think they should decide now, I think the series should start and people can decide from there. You have to walk the walk and prove that you can be the main event. And I know we can.
–Do you think the teams in WTL will be 100% focused on what’s next for them, or will they be looking at Best of the Super Junior as well, and trying to compete?
Tama: I mean, it depends what they want out of this. I can only say what I want.
Tama: Everything. Every damn thing. I want my cake and I wanna eat it too. For me as a competitor you can’t just think ‘I’m happy just winning World Tag League’, nah. I mean, what tour normally happens this time of year?
–World Tag League.
Tama: See what I’m saying? This is our time. And (the juniors) are muscling in on our time. So we have to make sure we take what’s ours and that is the main event.
We are the foundation here
–We assume you will be the number one team when the league is done. Who do you think will be opposite you in the final?
Tama: I’ve gotta give respect to the tag champions right now, and that’s Dangerous Tekkers. And then FinJuice, well they won last year so I expect them to be in the mix. If they don’t do it, then I know they were a fluke.
–G.o.D have done everything as a team together, but they haven’t won World Tag League, and they haven’t won in the Tokyo Dome. Why will this year change all that?
Tama: Why? Because this is the year everything changed. This is the year NJPW need someone to step forward. They need a solid foundation, guys that have put in the work and been there at the top year after year after year. They need a foundation to build from again in 2021, and we are that foundation.
Hikuleo learned so much in a short time
–Let’s change topics a little. You’ve been wrestling on NJPW STRONG the last few weeks.
Tama: Yeah. It broke up the monotony of being at home, it helped me get ready to come back, but…
–The competition wasn’t the same?
Tama: It’s a beginner stage for NJPW STRONG. There are a lot of younger guys that are getting a taste, and seeing how we really get things done over here. There’s guys that have potential, but they’ve got a long way to come.
–There are good future prospects there?
Tama: Yeah. I like STRONG for that. It’s a way to scout future talent and filter them so we bring the best to Japan. Find out who the best guys are there and then bring them out here. Japan is the best, so we have to have the best of the best s**t here in Japan.
–Your younger brother Hikuleo has been wrestling on STRONG as well. How has he been progressing?
Tama: Very good. Very good. I’m surprised at how fast he learned in a short time on excursion in the UK. So being in America for STRONG he’ll get more experience there, he’s already learned in Japan. I’d like him to learn a little more in Mexico as well, down the road.
KENTA is MVP level
–World Tag League was announced in the middle of G1 Climax 30.
Tama: Yeah, I know. I kept on top of everything in the G1.
–How do you think BULLET CLUB did in the G1, and who else impressed you?
Tama: Ospreay impressed me.
Tama: Yeah. He was able to move with that speed and precision, even as a heavyweight, that’s impressive. BULLET CLUB, of course, Jay was as great as Jay is, EVIL did well. Yujiro, hey, after the time away that he had, he did great.
–How about KENTA?
Tama: Man, KENTA was MVP level. Has been MVP level. He was wrestling a different kind of match to everyone else, and he kept you guessing the whole time. Not just in the ring, but what happened after the match, what he was saying backstage, what he was saying on social media. You can’t take your eyes off KENTA, and that’s why he’s so perfect in BULLET CLUB. I could tell when I was with him on NJPW STRONG he was already hungrier than ever. Just not quite as hungry as we are to take World Tag League and take those titles in the Tokyo Dome.